3 Excuses Accountable People Never Make

If you came of age in the 1970s like I did, you heard this all-encompassing excuse more times than you could count:

The devil made me do it!

It’s a good thing that the “me decade” with its embarrassing clothing, disco music, and blame-the-devil-for-all-things excuse is long gone, eh?

Yet, though disco may be dead, I’m not sure the whole excuse-making thing is. Ever heard stuff like this?:

Salesperson: “Well, I could double my sales if corporate would lower our prices and the competition wasn’t so stiff.”

Employee: “I’d work harder if they paid me more.”

Manager: “My department would meet all its goals if HR could find us better people.”

Senior Management: “If only our people would catch the vision.”

The People: “If only management would care more about us—and share that vision!”

We write this in Outstanding!:

In truth, there are reasons things go awry: people make mistakes, the ball gets dropped, stuff happens. Life can be complicated, confusing, and complex. We all could go on and on with our “reasons” why something didn’t get done. But when we attempt to exonerate ourselves with explanations, all they sound like are excuses—and, of course, that’s what they really are.

In Flipping the Switch, the companion book to QBQ!, we have a full page of common excuses people espouse, but here are just three core excuses those who practice PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY never make:

1. “I didn’t have time!”

Hogwash! All people make time to do what they really want to do. Read that again and don’t deny it, buy it—because it’s true. Even when time is tight, accountable people get their thinking and language changed to, “I didn’t make time.” Now that’s personal accountability and certainly an approach to life we can model for others.

2. “Nobody taught me!”

As we tell audiences when we teach QBQ!, stop asking the Incorrect Question or IQ (brief tutorial), “When is someone going to train me?” and start asking the QBQ, “What can I do to develop myself?”

Here’s why:

They’re your talents and abilities!

With information at our fingertips like never before, claiming to not know how to do something because “nobody taught me” is a lazy person’s way of saying, “I didn’t care enough to figure out how to do it on my own.” More here.

3. “It’s not my problem!”

Then make it your problem.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we do other people’s work for them. This is a judgment call. But many more human beings run from problems than tackle problems. In reality, outstanding people are far more likely to be all over a problem “like a cheap suit” than avoid getting involved.

So there are just three excuses that accountable people never make.

What others can you think of? What excuses have you made lately? What are the consequences of engaging in excuse-making?

Please share below!

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17 Responses

  1. Hi John,

    I usually agree with all your comments….every once in a while though…..I have to disagree. The statement “Hogwash! All people everywhere make time to do what they really want to do. Read that again and don’t deny it, buy it—because it’s true.” really disappointed me. For example: I am restricted to an 8 hour work day. When given a task to do, if it doesn’t fit in the timeframe, there is NOTHING I can do about that. Sometimes the answer “I didn’t have time!” fits the situation. BUT it should be followed up with an apology and an explanation of when to expect it to be done.

    1. Hi, Vicki. So sorry to disappoint you! 🙂 But I stand by my comment as you are still CHOOSING to not MAKE time for that extra work. Yes, sometimes we have too much work for the time, but our attitude is key – and one who says, “So sorry, I chose to not make time for that due to other priorities!” is the accountable thinker and person. Thanks and come again!

  2. Whenever I find myself wanting to say “I don’t have enough time” I remind myself of a quote I read a long time ago.

    “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.

  3. I’ve heard this more this past year than all previous years of my career:
    “That decision is above my pay grade.”

    Yeah, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but I guarantee that my supervisor appreciates input, and well thought out opinions. (I know not everyone experiences this!) ~ I’m Blessed.

  4. I find myself saying “I don’t have the time, can you get someone to help me’.
    I would rather say ‘YOU BET, I can help you!’ Thanks John for all the reminders and tips to become a better QBQ’r! I have enjoyed them and will continue to use them!

  5. I have often heard the excuse: “It’s just not the right time for this.”

    Maybe it is not the right time, but what can you do while you wait?

    …or better yet, maybe it will never be the right time, so do what you can right now!?

    Thanks for the inspiring thoughts here!

  6. The other one that I don’t like hearing which is tied to #3 is: “It’s above my pay grade.” Take some responsibility and don’t use your level in the organization as an excuse for inaction.

  7. John,

    On the radio, I was pleased to hear Dave Ramsey refer a caller to a number of books for reading and high on his list was QBQ! I’ve been following you, your books, and your blog ever since your first presentation to The National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) many years ago.

    Always good, thought-provoking and insightful…so much it hurts sometimes!

  8. Was “taking time” to look for an old email and run across this one that was forward to me by one of the individuals in my office. So I think she was trying to point out that she thinks/feel that I really good at giving excuse. That might be true.

    John – want is the different between an excuse and a reason? I’m a person who always wants to make everyone happy so when something happens – good or bad, I am quick to offer possible reasons or causes or “excuses” as to why this or that happen. That might be why my office QBQ reader forward your email to me for.

    The funny thing about receiving this from QBQ, is I’m the one who told and shared your book with my co-worker.

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